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Tuesday, December 12, 2000

As much as I admire Al Gore for putting up the good fight and staying the course, even he must have seen the handwriting on the wall as the Supreme Court grilled and skewered his lawyer yesterday. It was obvious that some of them had made up their minds. Justice Scalia wouldn't even listen to David Boies' answers to his questions.

And it was just as obvious that all of them (except Clarence Thomas, who was apparently present in the room, because otherwise someone would probably have mentioned it) had strong feelings that they were playing out the end game. Either they had problems with the unfairness of the way ballots were being counted by hand, or they were concerned that the federal deadlines couldn't be met.

So, it's all but over. No matter what anyone does or says, George W. Bush will be sworn in next month as the president. Our president.

He will say all the right things, I'm sure of that. About cooperation. About reaching out. About healing. All the wrangling and rhetoric of the last few weeks becomes irrelevant, and we now put our energy into finding a way to live together and work together.

We'll soon know what kind of leadership and statesmanship we have, on both sides. As interesting as this process has been, what happens over the next month or two will have a lot more to do with the future course of history.

There are lessons to be learned from the Florida Fiasco, however (and it could have happened anywhere). We need national electoral standards, much more than we need to overhaul or discard the electoral college. A vote shouldn't be easier to count in rich districts than poor. Anyone who wants to cast a ballot should have a reasonable assurance that the vote will count.

And, now that we know how close an election can be, we need to make sure that our young people are educated to think about the issues, and able to make informed decisions, and encouraged to vote with the conviction that they are doing something of value to themselves and their country.

I stayed up a little late last night to finish watching Snow Falling on Cedars, a slow, ponderous film with Big Themes. Love. Death. Justice. Prejudice. I was expecting a love story, and found a movie that was technically kind of dazzling, with its flashbacks, flash-forwards and overlaps, but at its heart just as cold as the icy setting.

Maybe there was too much flitting back and forth between past and present to give the plot any narrative flow or the characters any perceptible development. The most effective scene was one of the longest, as the Japanese residents of the island in Washington state are marched through the town to the boat waiting to take them to a relocation camp. This was moving.

As much as I wanted to like this movie, though, somehow I never connected with it as a whole.

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